Protecting ‘Our Own’

The fine line between nationalism and xenophobia

Candlelight vigil for victims of terrorism at Royal Holloway

Under the statue of Queen Victoria, students at Royal Holloway lit candles for all those affected by terrorism

Whilst international trauma unites many in support and love for the many victims of Paris’ terrorist attacks on Friday 13th, it also breeds a violent rhetoric. The majority of my Facebook newsfeed has been completely sympathetic to the victims of terrorism in France, but also in eastern areas such as Beirut and Baghdad, which faced and continue to face equally horrifying attacks. However, I have also seen many xenophobic beliefs summed up by the emergence of a new petition wanting signatures to send for parliament’s consideration of: ‘Stop all immigration and close the UK borders until ISIS is defeated.’

Looking through the Facebook sharers of this petition, the majority’s reasoning alluded to nationalism and the protection of the British. One said if stopping 2,000 refugees meant saving 10 of ‘our own’ it was worth it. I find it incomprehensible how one live can mean more than another. We are now the most involved and connected to the global world, thanks to increased communication and technology bridging the gap distance creates, than we have ever been. Many Brits settle outside of the UK. Part of my own family moved out to France 15 years ago and have been there since. By the logic of this nationalism, the French should be valuing French lives over other nationalities, which shows the inhumanity in deciding on the worth of a life. Defining ‘our own’ is equally problematic. We are a multi-national and multi-cultural society and have been for generations, what does being British even mean? Unfortunately the west-east division becomes clear in the mass media covering France so extensively and almost completely excluding the many other international disasters that occurred that day. France is so close to home for many of us, whilst the Middle East seems very distant and as such we have been anaesthetised to the constant suffering there.

In a historical context, refugees seeking help from war-torn home countries is not unusual. Looking back to the last truly all-encompassing international conflict of World War Two, thousands and tens of thousands of refugees from Europe (Jewish and otherwise) sought refuge. It is the people who helped humanity that go on remembered in history. The petition to parliament states that ‘at any other time in our history this [ISIS threat to Europe] would be tantamount to a declaration of war and borders would be closed.’ However, this is a very different time in history. We are not reliant on strict alliances, nor is the warfare the same. We are very lucky to have had minimal civilian attacks in Britain, and although Paris experienced true horror, it must be remembered that the Middle East has for decades. The refugees are trying to run from the terrorists who orchestrated the Paris attacks.


Poem by Indian blogger Karuna Ezara Parikh

All human life is equal and should all be protected from terror. The poem by Indian blogger Karuna Ezara Parikh (Instagram karunaezara) aptly portrays the issue with the nationalist, protect ‘our own’ outlook; everyone is ‘our own’.

We cannot know what the Paris attacks will mean or lead to in the future and how great a part they will play in world events in the present time, but do we want to be remembered as the nation that shut the world out when the world needed help?

Elena Rees

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